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Cleaning computer boards after fire damage ?

Posted on 1998-01-12
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Last Modified: 2012-06-27
After a fire ravaged my flat, my computer, which has been spared by the flames, still has been "damaged" by smoke and ashes.
I'm looking for a product I could use to "wash" clean the motherboard, extension boards, memory chips, processor etc.
I just wanna be sure it won't damage the boards' circuitry.

One last important note : the product should be easy for me to find : I'm living in Europe (Belgium), so keep this in mind when answering, please ...

Also, there would be a 50-point bonus if anyone with similar experience could give me some hints about what to do and especially what NOT to do when trying to restart the machine after clean-up. I mean, how can I avoid damaging computer parts when powering up first time, what would be the minimum components necessary for a boot, etc.

Thanks in advance for any help,

Terminus.
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Question by:terminus
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4 Comments
 
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Expert Comment

by:jhance
ID: 1122826
Yes, this can be done but the soot must be removed completely.  The problem with it is that it is carbon and is conductive.  So you get signals shorted together on your circuit boards by the soot.  You should be able to find PCB cleaning solvent at any electronics supply store.  This stuff is a mild solvent that washed away contaminants and oily residue.  It evaporates so that there is nothing left to dry out. Take your time, so that you get all traces of the soot off (it really permeates the inside of a computer) and always be careful about static discharge.  I would also recommend the replacement of your floppy disk drive, CDROM drive, and any tape drive.  These don't clean well and are probably ruined.  Also take care to clean or replace any of the switches on your case.  These are often overlooked and collect soot. You mouse and keyboard are probably not worth cleaning either.  Use special care with your CRT if you decide it's worth saving.  The very ventilated nature of the enclosure for these things means that a lot of stuff gets inside.  Pay special attention to cleaning the areas containing high-voltage as any residue will cause arcing here and probably cause a failure eventually.

To boot your PC with a minimum of parts, remove everything but the VIDEO, Floppy, and keyboard and see if you can get through self-test and boot a DOS or Win95 floppy.  Then add your components back one at a time.
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by:terminus
ID: 1122827
jhance, thanks for your detailed answer : I fully intend to give you an A grade for this, if only you can explain more fully what a "PCB cleaning solvent" is.
As stated in the question, I'm living in Belgium (french-speaking part), and don't know what the heck "PCB" could mean. The exact name of the product I should ask in the shop would be great, but an explanation of the term would suffice.
Thanks in advance,

PS : please don't reply to this one if you're not JHANCE : I'll refuse your answer anyway ...
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Accepted Solution

by:
jhance earned 800 total points
ID: 1122828
PCB = Printed Circuit Board

An example of brand names of this type of product in the states would be "Blue Shower".  A generic name would be "circuit board cleaner".  In the past, these were FREON (CFC) based but with the ozone scare, that type is not available anymore.  There are two major types now commonly used, HaloFluoroCarbon (HFC) based and citrus (Orange Extract) based.  Both seem to work well.

By the way, another source would be a television repair shop.
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LVL 2

Author Comment

by:terminus
ID: 1122829
Thanks man ... hope most of my  machine's components owe their life to your advice :-)
I can't believe it's been almost two weeks since I've last used my own computer ! I've got some at work, but that's not the same : to start with, they're so inadequate - nad I'm working in an american computer services multinational !
Hope to be able to send you mail outside of a cybercafe ;-)

Terminus.
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